Ingesting the Flavor and Mechanics of Battle for Zendikar’s New Eldrazi

A rugged vista of Zendikar, showing the otherwordly, leached latticework of Eldrazi corruption.

Numerous cards for Magic: The Gathering’s upcoming expansion set, “Battle for Zendikar,” were revealed at this weekend’s Pax Prime event. The setting, a mana-rich and volatile plane called Zendikar, is Ground Zero for an epic battle between the races and nations of that plane and the Eldrazi, otherwordly and terrifying abominations that look as though they walked straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft novel. Much like the Terminator, the Eldrazi can neither be bargained nor reasoned with, and their very existence comes at a terrible, brutal price: the complete and utter elimination of everyone else’s.

We last saw these lurking horrors at the conclusion of Magic’s first visit to Zendikar, the self-evident “Rise of the Eldrazi.” What set the Eldrazi apart from other antagonists is their immense size, colorness nature, and ability to erase anything standing in their path.

The key Eldrazi mechanic in “Rise” was “annihilator,” which forced your opponent to sacrifice a specified number of permanents (lands, creatures, artifacts, or enchantments) each time an Eldrazi with this ability attacked. “Annihilator” was a nasty mechanic that made victory only a matter of (often very short) time whenever Eldrazi made their way to the battlefield.

In “Battle,” the terror of annihilation has been replaced with an exile mechanic called “Ingest.” Several of the nonlegendary Eldrazi revealed thus far show this is a fixed mechanic: whenever an Eldrazi with Ingest deals combat damage, the defender exiles the top card of their library.

“Ingest” showcases how the warped nature of the Eldrazi not only distorts the landscape (see the vista at top and the detail on “Mist Intruder” below) but tears the very fabric of reality itself.

Mist Intruder

Ulamog, the first legendary Eldrazi previewed in this set, has a much more intense version of Ingest, where the top 20 cards of your library are wiped from memory each time it strikes.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

In the game of Magic, the library has been described as a planeswalker’s “memory,” which is why mill effects are found in Blue’s part of the color pie.

To have the Eldrazi steadily and relentlessly pull your library into exile (the game’s “point of no return”) versus condemning them to an untimely demise in your graveyard (where they could be recovered), to me, speaks more to the sense of dampening helplessness and crushing inevitability that these horrors are supposed to evoke.

The other new mechanic for the Eldrazi is simply a status keyword called “Devoid.” Cards with “Devoid” have no color identity, even if they’re cast using colored mana.

Barrage-Tyrant

In “Rise,” several of the lesser Eldrazi were actually colored cards in the Jund spectrum (green, red, or black). For “Battle,” the design team use “Devoid” to retain the colorless nature of the Eldrazi, which cleanly illustrates them being beyond the boundaries and characteristics of colored mana and further separates them from “normal” reality.

The unique identity of Eldrazi cards is further marked with a hard-lined meander design (reminiscent of their former hedron prisons) at the top of “Devoid” cards.

The last well-placed artistic stroke to come out of the Pax Prime reveals was the haunting painting below, depicting three statues.

CNn7EU3WIAAMIrh

While not identified in the Wizards of the Coast Twitter stream, players of the original Zendikar block will recall that the Eldrazi made their way into collective myths and legends on that plane.

The statues here show Emeria at top, Ula at left, and Cosi at right.

These deities are blurred racial memories … echoes of recall thousands of years old from when Emrakul, Ulamog, and Kozilek first rampaged across the land. You can see attributes of each Eldrazi in these statues, such as Emrakul’s fleshy, domed hemispheres and trailing tentacles in Emeria’s wings and coattails.

We still have several weeks before “Battle for Zendikar” gets its full reveal, but the rich flavor of the set’s artistry and setting have already proven captivating and suitably unsettling.

All photos and artwork in this post are copyright ©2015 Wizards of the Coast.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Why I Finally Quit Magic: The Gathering, or, “So Long, and Thanks for all the Phyrexians”

Well, my friends, it’s the end of an era: I’ve officially quit Magic: the Gathering.

Like many Magic players, I first picked up the game in college during its heyday and quit for trivial reasons (for me, it was to pay a dorm room fee). I returned many years later, right after Dark Ascension hit the streets in February 2012. I dove in hard, buying boosters weekly, fat packs with new releases, and becoming heavily invested with online trading websites.

ImageI wrote a lengthy essay last year about taking an eight-week “fast” from Magic in order to get my personal life in better order. At the time, I was burning up a great deal of mental energy and effort on trading, brewing, and consuming all aspects of Magic, and it was taking an increasingly negative toll on my relationships with my family. I succeeded in making it through the fast, but the effects of remaining tied to Magic, even loosely, lingered in the background.

I worked hard to limit my exposure to the game after the fast, but old habits die harder. I did a very limited return to online trading, but had to reign myself in before I started putting too many cards back on the market. I started playing again in a casual setting, but I found myself acting less than mature, almost bordering on sneaky, when asking for the time and opportunities to play the game amidst a busy family schedule.

After a set of lengthy discussions with my family, I went to a local game store last Thursday and made a commitment to sell off my entire Magic collection on the spot. Most of the cards I owned were still sleeved and in decks; I played a final few rounds with a friend of mine while one of the employees was pricing a stack of my highest-value cards. I’m sure I could have earned a much larger amount of money selling my collection online piece by piece, but this wasn’t about the money.

What makes this departure different to me is the context. My reasons for leaving the game aren’t the usual ones you hear from former Magic players, such as “I don’t have the money to keep up with the format,” or “my friends don’t play anymore/moved away,” or “I don’t like the new set/direction Magic (as a game) is taking.” This was about figuring out what works in my life and what doesn’t.

See, one thing I’ve had to come to terms with is my age. I’m not a 20-something college kid or working single man with minimal sets of responsibilities and the freedom to spend what I have (in both money and time). I’m nearly 40, married, and have two small children. I don’t have the luxury, the ability, or the need to spend countless hours mulling over a collectible card game when there’s children to care for, work to be done, schedules to plan, home projects to complete, and promises to fulfill. And it’s not like Magic was ever an integral part of my identity. Magic has always been an add-on; it was never something I played for years on end, nor was it a critical part of my growth and development, nor was it something that brought my wife and I together (as it has with many folks). It was a hobby, and it grew far outside its boundaries as a simple hobby.

I know there are plenty of folks who are successful in managing their gaming alongside their significant others, spouses, families, and careers, but it took me a while to discover that Magic is simply not compatible with mine. And it was hard to take the hooks out … that’s why I made the decision to cut my losses and cash out.

For all the people I’ve met during my recent time playing Magic, it was awesome getting to know you, and I hope we can continue stay in touch. As for you, Magic: the Gathering …

… so long, and thanks for all the Phyrexians.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Tipping the Scales: A Standard GW Counter-based Deck for Magic: The Gathering

“Hardened Scales,” by Mark Winters. © Wizards of the Coast.

Today’s Magic: The Gathering column is a green/white build I’ve had in mind ever since “Khans of Tarkir” was released back in November. The white-aligned clan, the Abzan Houses, emphasize a defensive posture based around counters. This ties nicely to the Heroic mechanic of the Theros block and the gradual “build up” nature of green/white creature armies.

The keystone of this deck is the one-drop enchantment Hardened Scales, which gives us a bonus +1/+1 counter any time a spell or ability gives a permanent counter to one of our creatures. Scales is by no means as mighty as the fabled Doubling Season, but a free counter each time we cast a spell or trigger Heroic is sure to put our army over the top at an accelerated pace.

Now, there are plenty of green creatures in Theros block who grant multiple +1/+1 counters each time their Heroic ability is triggered (such as Staunch-Hearted Warrior), but most have a higher converted mana cost than their white counterparts. That’s fine for the long game, but I wanted this deck to build up quickly.

Without further delay, let me introduce “Tipping the Scales”:


hardenedscales“Tipping the Scales”

Creatures (24):

Instants (10):

Enchantments (4):

Lands (22):

Sideboard (15):


The theme of “Tipping the Scales” is one- and two-drop creatures who will rapidly grow into heavyweights due to Heroic triggers and counters. The supporting pair of Abzan Falconers and Tuskguard Captains add flying and trample, respectively, to everyone who has a counter. Phalanx Leader serves as the “Oprah” of the team. Coupled with multiple copies of Hardened Scales, each time Phalanx Leader is hit with a spell, we add at least one to three additional counters in an average game.

Fleecemane Lion is our ahead-of-the-curve two-drop whose Monstrosity trigger can easily be ballooned in size with additional copies of Scales on the field. Favored Hoplite and Feat of Resistance offer valuable protection to keep enemy hands off your forces. Fabled Hero serves as our beater. Our playset of Warden of the First Tree, while not a source of counters, is a simple one-drop who can grow to be a heady threat on their own.

Our Strive cards, Nature’s Panoply and Solidarity of Heroes, give us the option of pumping as many counters to our Heroic friends as we can muster. They’re good as one-offs early on while providing a good investment of abundant mana later in the game.

The sideboard contains a few reactive cards: Erase for enchantments, Banishing Light for troublesome permanents, and Plummet for dragons and other flyers. Ajani Steadfast‘s second ability mirrors that of Phalanx Leader for extra counter shenanigans. Nyx-Fleece Ram is a stalwart defensive player and always welcome in any white-based deck I play.

What do you think? Does the build need a better balance of instants to justify the theme, or is the balance right on the mark? How would you adjust the composition or pace for play at your next Friday Night Magic? Please share the in comments below.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Divinely Inspired: Oh! My Goddess Cards for Magic: the Gathering

For this week’s Magic: the Gathering article, I’d like to take you on a journey into the hobbyist-slash-enthusiast realm of creating custom cards based on fictional, non-Magic characters. There are plenty of folks who enjoy dreaming up representations of their favorite heroes, villains, or literary companions using the terms and mechanics of Magic to express how those characters would interact in the game. These cards can be a fun mental exercise or a way to design one’s own version of the game to play in an informal setting.

For today’s article, I designed cards for four of the main characters from the Japanese anime series “Oh! My Goddess,” specifically, the 26-episode rendition that aired back in 2005. I’ve found this series quite faithful to the original manga (written and illustrated by Kosuke Fujishima) and believe it shows a good range of each character’s talents and personalities. The characters I chose are the three main goddesses: the kind and helpful Belldandy, her alluring and often interfering older sister, Urd, and her technologically adept yet child-like younger sister, Skuld; as well as the humble engineering student whose life they change forever, Keiichi Morisato.

To represent the scope of their overall powers and abilities, I chose to design each of the goddesses using the planeswalker model, with Keiichi designed as a legendary (mortal) creature.

Belldandy, Merciful Goddess

Let’s start with Belldandy. To me, Belldandy is a solidly white-aligned character: she believes in peace, harmony, generosity, and selflessness.

Belldandy, Merciful Goddess

I designed her abilities to shield others from damage, dispel harmful or interfering enchantments, and send her foes back to their own realms and out of harm’s way. Many times throughout the anime, Belldandy discovered and unraveled spells cast by demons and spirits upon Keiichi and her friends, so exiling Auras made for a good fit here. She also exiles rather than destroys with her third ability; this keeps with her peace-loving nature. As Belldandy is willing to help anyone in need, she has the highest starting loyalty of the goddesses.

Urd, Impulsive Goddess

Next comes Urd. While she ultimately has good intentions in mind, Urd is driven by passion and impulsiveness, making her a perfect fit for red’s part of the color pie.

Urd, Impulsive Goddess

The black-aligned part of her color identify comes from both her demon heritage as well as her tendency towards selfishness and satisfying her own desires, often at the expense of others. Urd has great power, but she lacks precision, so I designed the random nature of her second ability to represent her occasional misfires. Her ultimate ability reflects the charms and potions Urd creates to control and manipulate others’ actions.

Skuld, Inventor Goddess

Skuld is a brilliant engineer and legendary for her talents with machines, so an artifact-themed build was the natural direction for her. Like Urd, she can also be impulsive, so I made her color identity blue/red (similar to the theme of the Izzet guild from Ravnica).

Skuld, Inventor Goddess

Skuld never fails to build in a self-destruct feature in her creations, so her tokens all have that ability. I designed her second ability as a way of representing her innate magical talent with protecting her machines from harm. Since planeswalkers to date have no instant-speed abilities, I added the errata about casting this only on your turn. For her ultimate ability, I wanted to showcase Skuld’s talents in turning any mundane device into a living machine. To avoid this becoming too broken rules-wise, I limited it to single use versus a persistent emblem. Also notice that it doesn’t affect the tokens she creates with her first ability.

Keiichi Morisato

Keiichi Morisato

Keiichi was the most challenging of the four to design. He, like Skuld, is very talented with machines, and shares Belldandy’s compassion for others. This, coupled with his innocent demeanor, made Keiichi a solid fit for blue/white. But, how to represent his relationship with the goddesses and his penchant for getting in mishaps due to their presence? The first clause gives him extra defenses in their presence to illustrate how he’s ultimately protected by the goddesses, but only when they’re around. Obviously, this limits his play potential, but I didn’t want this to say he’d be protected by any planeswalker, as I can’t imagine Garruk or Liliana taking him under their care. I also think it shows the physical vulnerabilities he has on his own. Keiichi’s second, simpler clause shows his talent in fixing machines and giving them new life. It’s basic, in part because it’s intended to be less flashy than the goddesses’ abilities.

How I Made the Cards

Each of these cards were designed using the outstanding and versatile Magic Set Editor program. I’ve attached the set file with this article so you can add Keiichi and the goddesses to your set, or for you to modify them as you see fit. If you do create your own versions, link to them in the comments. I’d love to see them!

Oh! My Goddess Magic card set file

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Deck Spotlight: “Star Attraction”

Underworld Coinsmith | Art by Mark Winters

Underworld Coinsmith | Art by Mark Winters

I absolutely love enchantments. They are far and away my favorite card types in Magic.

Theros block, with its heavy enchantment subtheme and roster of newfangled enchantment creatures, was an absolute treasure trove of new goodies to add to my builds. The third part of the block, Journey Into Nyx, capped off this trend with its unique “Constellation” mechanic. For those of you unfamiliar with Constellation, it rewards you for playing enchantments by triggering an effect whenever one enters the battlefield under your control. I’ve wanted to brew an all-enchantment deck for some time now, and, at long last, the time was right to make this happen.

At the Journey Into Nyx prerelease, I constructed a black/white deck that predicted the type of build I’ll showcase below. I enjoyed the interactions I observed among the Constellation cards and wanted to see how that increased with a more consistent number of them on the battlefield.

Without further adieu, allow me to present my “all enchantments, all the time” build, “Star Attraction”:


“Star Attraction” (Standard black/white)

Creatures (31):

Artifacts (2):

Enchantments (5):

Lands (22):


As a black/white build, the main (and traditional) attributes of this deck are:

  • Defense: Build up the ramparts and start the pain. The primary workhorses (or sheep, as it were) in this role are Nyx-Fleece Ram and Grim Guardian. There’s also a pair of Doomwake Giants for muscle further down the mana curve.
  • Life gain/drain: Both Underworld Coinsmith and Grim Guardian fulfill this role, though Spiteful Returned is a worthy runner-up as well. Once enough of these two find themselves on the battlefield, each subsequent enchantment you cast will put you further ahead and your opponents further behind. Nyx-Fleece Ram boosts you on your upkeep while Fate Unraveler punishes your foes on theirs.
  • Stabilizing the battlefield (control): Brain Maggot and Banishing Light work to remove troublesome cards from your opponent’s roster, with the former giving you valuable intelligence on what’s ahead. All three of the gods work to keep your foes on their toes, whether that’s boosting your defense (Heliod), suppressing their lifegain (Erebos), or putting a hard choice before them (Athreos). The Whip of Erebos and Spear of Heliod provide extra teeth to your enchanting army to make foes hesitate as you whittle their life away.

One of the key points behind “Star Attraction” is to avoid the “two-for-one” danger of Aura enchantments, so these are limited to Bestow enchantment creatures, such as Nyxborn Shieldmate and Gnarled Scarhide.

Since this deck is designed to be played in Standard, let me take a moment to express how utterly distraught I am that Ethereal Armor has rotated. Yes, it’s an Aura, and, yes, it can be “two-for-one’d,” but, by Heliod’s spear, stacking Armors in an enchantment-rich deck was simply magnificent. You have not lived, my friends, until you’ve double-stacked Ethereal Armors on a Hopeful Eidolon and swung on turn three with a 7/7 lifelinked first-striker. My basic substitute in this build, Eidolon of Countless Battles, is somewhat of a successor to Ethereal Armor, but it’s a bit costlier overall.

The obvious weakness of this deck is versus pinpoint removal. Every single card in the deck, except for lands, can be dealt with using simple spells such as Erase, Revoke Existence, and Fade Into Antiquity; the gods, of course, can fall to Deicide. All I can say is that I’m glad Paraselene is not in Standard any longer; a Wrath of God for enchantments is pretty much the Achilles heel of this deck.

While this is certainly not tournament-level material, “Star Attraction” is a fun build for the casual and Friday Night Magic environments. Give it a go and see whether you’re as enchanted with its inner workings as I am.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Deck Spotlight: Doom and Gloom

Tormented Hero

Tormented Hero, a card from the Theros block of Magic: The Gathering. Art by Winona Nelson.

Ahoy, fellow adventurers! This is the first of several Magic: The Gathering deck spotlights I plan to write for 3-Sided Die. Allow me to begin our journey with my current headliner build, a black/white brew I’ve dubbed “Doom and Gloom.” I’ll share the deck list, discuss the key cards and strategies I’ve developed, and offer some suggestions on how the build can evolve when rotation happens next week.

“Doom and Gloom” Decklist

Creatures (23):

Instants (4):

Sorceries (2):

Artifacts (1):

Enchantments (8):

Lands (22):

Sideboard (15):

Torment Them with Your Heroes

One of the key themes of this deck is immediately obvious: life loss/life gain. I love how black/white decks can start a gradual decay in your opponents’ life totals that can get quite out of hand with certain card combinations. One of my favorite pairings in this deck is pulling Congregate while Sanguine Bond is on the battlefield. The look on your opponent’s face as you fatally drain them for 18 life while they have a veritable army on their side of the field is priceless. Until you get to strike that killing blow, Tormented Hero, Hopeful Eidolon, and Soldier of the Pantheon help swing the scales in your favor. Whip of Erebos pinch hits for extra support in getting even more edge over your foes.

Putting 2/1s on the battlefield on turn one is a superb starting point for this deck, which tends to list more towards the aggressive end of the spectrum. For turn three, Banisher Priest is a solid, square-stat creature that can easily remove evasive threats and throw in a few blows of its own, while Agent of the Fates keeps the tension high and provides lethal defense. I love the versatility of Hopeful Eidolon as a chump blocker or Heroic enabler for the Hero and Agent. Enchanting the Eidolon with stacked Ethereal Armors is efficiently brutal; swinging with a turn three 7/7 first strike lifelinker is an effortless task with 4-ofs of both in this deck.

Remove All Doubts

Erebos, God of the Dead stops life-gain shenanigans from your opponent cold, and, with your own means of getting life, the card draw option becomes a no-brainer. The pair of Obzedat, Ghost Council drive home a fierce and tough-to-eliminate threat that just adds to the life loss misery on the other side of the table.

Angelic Accord adds insult to injury for your foes by giving you 4/4 flyers to sweeten your ever-increasing life total. Hero’s Downfall adds more pinpoint removal to keep the field clear of whatever your Priests and Agents couldn’t handle. I personally prefer to always have artifact and enchantment removal in my mainboard, and the reprint of Revoke Existence fits the bill nicely, taking care of Theros-block gods and other annoyances with ease.

Finally, the playset of Temple of Silence in your mana base helps preview your choices as you move along. Being able to plan ahead, to me, offsets the “enters the battlefield tapped” downside.

Banish Their Hopes

As I mentioned before, this is intended to be a fast, aggressive build. Press the point and don’t let up.

Between the Priests, Agents, Downfalls, and Revokes, you’ve plenty of removal options at your disposal. Abuse the stacking nature of the Armors to their absolute fullest; you have four of them, so don’t worry too much if the enchanted creature gets nixed (or, should I say, Nyxed?).

In mirror matches, you may choose to swap in the Glare of Heresy and/or the Dark Betrayal in the sideboard for more precise kills.

We Are the Warriors

As I write this essay, we are days away from rotation for Return to Ravnica and the Core 2014 set. Keeping this deck Standard-friendly means losing the Armors, Priests, and other key cards.

A possible evolution could be to move this into the fast-moving black/white Warriors tribal suggested by the dynamic duo Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale from Khans of Tarkir. I would likely start with two of each in the mainboard with the other pair in the sideboard to vary the aggressiveness of the deck. Tormented Hero fits quite nicely in a Warrior build. Other one-drop options could include Disowned Ancestor for early defense or Mardu Hateblade for killing blows. Herald of Anafenza, while itself a Soldier, puts out Warrior tokens, as does Mardu Hordechief and the instant Take Up Arms.

The good folks at PucaTrade posted a “budget brew” article today that provides an excellent framework for this build. I’d highly recommend referring to this post if you decide to move down the black/white Warriors path.

Now, if you choose to keep the life gain/life loss theme, you may want to switch to an Abzan/Heroic build to take advantage of all the +1/+1 counter interactions in Khans. Many of the Abzan cards grant bonuses to creatures with counters, but look for others, such as Seeker of the Way, who gains lifelink whenever you cast noncreature spells that would trigger Heroic on other members of your team.

Since Artifacts appear to be less of an issue in Khans block thus far, I’d suggest swapping the Revokes for Erase, which rejoins Standard after its last appearance in Core 2013. Suspension Field, while limited to targeting creatures with toughness 3 or higher, can put the brakes on beaters your team can’t handle, as well as Banishing Light, which duplicates the effects of the Priests without the body.

Congregate in the Comments!

That’s all for this installment of Deck Spotlight! I hope this deck list and analysis have been enjoyable and informative, whether you’re a casual player or hitting the Friday Night Magic circuit. I welcome all feedback and variations on a future version of “Doom and Gloom” in the comments below.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.

Magic: The Gathering – Why I Play Standard vs. Legacy

Temple of Triumph enchanted by Evil Presense

Just over a year ago, I moved a few hundred miles away from my Magic playgroup. I’ve found a superior game store (Super Games in Alpharetta, GA), but it’s a bit of a drive for me, so I don’t get to attend Friday Night Magic or pre-release events more than every couple of months. As a result, nearly all of the games I play these days are with friends over the computer, mostly using Facebook Messenger (which I’ll cover in a future post). These are casual games that don’t stick to a particular format.

My toughest Magic opponent is consistently my fellow author on this blog, Jinx the Bard. Jinx likes to play Legacy. He’s a “kitchen table” player like myself, and doesn’t frequent Friday Night Magic or tournaments. The deck builds he dreams up, even the ones in development, are brutal and ruthlessly effective. I’ve found myself several times across the virtual table from a turn two Avacyn (courtesy of graveyard and reanimator shenanigans), been mana deprived by Sinkholes, have learned much respect and revile for Gigadrowse and Steel of the Godhead, and now dread the opening play, “Swamp, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Phyrexian Obliterator, pass to you.” To state the obvious, the sheer power level of certain Legacy cards are simply unmatched in Modern and Standard.

I, on the other hand, prefer to play Standard and Modern. Despite having first learned to play Magic in 1996 with Revised and Fallen Empires, I have an aesthetic dislike for the pre-Eighth Edition frames and stubbornly refuse to play them.

Some folks think I’m crazy to play Standard vs. Legacy. “Why don’t you both play the same format?” or “Just get him to play Standard” are the typical responses. Well, from Jinx’s standpoint, if he’s got the cards, why should he have to limit himself to a certain subset? Also, it’s my conscious choice to stick to my formats and stay out of Legacy. I enjoy the puzzle mentality of putting together a reliable and efficient Standard deck that can not only hold its own at Friday Night Magic, but can prove a formidable opponent to what Jinx throws my way. It’s become a point of pride to be able to defend myself against those turn one Obliterators using a much smaller (and often, much weaker) pool of options.

Pitting my Standard decks vs. Jinx’s Legacy builds has also helped me tune the deck I’ve been playing at Friday Night Magic since the Return to Ravnica block (red-white Boros aggro). Sure, there are Constructed archetypes to deal with, and someone at the game store is always mimicking what the pros are playing at the tournament level. However, I’ve come to discover that, if my build is strong and versatile enough to handle Legacy, it’s much better suited to stand up to the current threats in Standard. For example, I was so surprised to learn how well a “kitchen sink” Orzhov build I was testing did vs. several types of Legacy builds that I’m strongly considering taking that to my next visit to Super Games.

Going up against Legacy’s more numerous and diverse threats also helps me better understand how newer mechanics, such as Heroic and Devotion, interact with a broader range of combat situations and interactions than what I might find in Limited or Constructed environments. My sharper understanding of the rules also benefits Jinx, who has come to rely upon my knowledge (and poring through the Gatherer database) to settle any questions or disputes.

Sure, these types of matchups are more challenging and can often be frustrating, but they’re quite a lot of fun as well.

Author’s note: Special thanks to Kirsin Koch for his review and editing of this essay.

About brightmatrix

brightmatrix is a long-time casual gamer. His gaming journey has included Magic: the Gathering, the first, second, and fourth edition Dungeons & Dragons, and the first wave White Wolf games from the late 90s. If you are a denizen of the Twitterverse, you can read his posts on Magic, web development, puns, and other shenanigans at @brightmatrix.